Wednesday, April 30, 2014

On Mantras

I recently noticed a theme in my life that I hadn't really realized touched on so many aspects of living - mantras.  Now mind you, I am very action- and results-oriented, so words alone don't mean much to me.  But my realization was that some words drive action and results for me that others don't - and that makes those words, or sequences of words, very powerful.  My hope is that by sharing these very personal insights, others can use them or a variation of them to inspire and motivate themselves.

Last weekend I took the APICS Train-the-Trainer class again; I had not taken it in several years and I have grown as a presenter, instructor and public speaker substantially since that first class.  But I recalled the key to getting over my nerves in public speaking, and it was a mantra I had learned in that class:  
"The audience wants to see you succeed."  
There was more to the idea, to be sure.  Nobody in the audience wants to see a speaker flounder, break under pressure, stutter, talk too fast, or do anything else that distracts from the message.  Indeed, the audience comes to hear a no-name speaker generally for one reason - the message, or content, that speaker has promised.  Thus, it is our jobs as speakers, instructors, lecturers, whatever we may be, to deliver the content or message in the best way we are able to.  This idea, somehow had the power to break me of my shaking, stuttering, talking too fast, and sweating, that accompanied giving a speech or lecture.  I have grown into a comfortable, casual instructor.  It is especially easy when I know the material thoroughly, but for material I am less confident in, rehearsing can prepare me to be just as comfortable in front of the audience.  The envision-everyone-in-their-underpants trick never worked for me, and no other public speaking trick I've heard of has helped, but hearing and believing that the audience wants me to succeed did, and still does. 

My second mantra is what finally kicked my butt into gear to start exercising and eating healthy again.  I let myself get into a habit of eating whatever I enjoyed, and stress eating, and not exercising as much as I should because I had so many other things to do.  I realized a while back that getting back in shape would never work if I didn't commit myself 100% of the time to that goal; some goals can be worked on sporadically, but health is not a goal like that.  Dieting and exercising needs to be priority number one, or it is not going to succeed at all.  But even after those realizations, I had a hard time getting myself committed - I knew it took commitment to do it consistently, but I just couldn't find the motivation within me to commit.  Finally, I had had enough.  It was a little over a month ago that I declared to myself (and not really anyone else except those impacted by my commitment), that I was going to turn this thing around.  The mantra I have found to help me stay committed is this: 
"There is nothing more important to do today than to get healthy."  

Sometimes I phrase it into questions: "What is the most important thing I need to do today?  Is it (whatever else I'm considering doing)?  Or getting healthy?"  Invariably, unless I have a specific appointment I need to attend to, when I ask myself these questions, I end up at the gym or working out in some way.  It also keeps me motivated while I'm at the gym.  When I find myself thinking about all the other things I want to accomplish that evening, I start thinking about cutting my workout short.  But then I stop and ask myself what's more important, and I stay on track with my workout. 

I think it's important to note that some quotes or mantras don't work for some people.  For example, I've had this quote on my closet door for years, in hopes of inspiring me to work out every morning: 
"This is not about instant gratification. You have to work hard for it, sweat for it, give up sleeping in." - Lauren Fessenden  
Unfortunately, despite its fantastic placement next to my alarm clock, it has done nearly nothing for me.  It seems compelling to me, and yet, it has compelled me to do very little.  Maybe it will inspire others as I thought it would inspire me.  For some reason I can't put my finger on, it just didn't work on me. 

It's been a while since I've needed this next mantra, but it was very effective.  It was for when I was single, and feeling like I'd forever be single.  I simply looked at a couple comprised of individuals I see nothing desirable in, and say, "If THEY can find someone to love them, then surely there is a match out there for me."  Kind of mean, but you know, it's better than just saying I'll never find anyone.  It kept me looking for love when it seemed impossible to find love.  It didn't get me all the way to my current relationship, but it got me mostly there, and luck, and good friends got me the rest of the way.  Now, of course, I don't need the mantra because I have found a love who makes me so overwhelmingly happy it's hard to believe he's real.

Music has also been very instrumental in pushing me forward throughout my life.  I don't recall exactly which song it was, but I remember having one song that was current at the time be my motivation to finish my calculus homework for an entire semester.  I borrow from musicals quite extensively; Wicked's "Dancing Through Life" when I need to de-stress and enjoy life more, and Pippin's "Extraordinary" when I am feeling trapped. 

Now, to reward you for sticking with me so far, I'm going to tell you a very strange personal secret.  I don't remember when or how it started, but for as long as I can remember, I've had this mantra running through my head: "I make over $100,000 a year."  I don't, in reality, and I never have thus far.  But it is certainly a goal of mine.  The weird thing is it might run through my head 40 times a day.  When I'm walking, when I'm in the elevator, when I'm brushing my teeth, when I'm applying deodorant, when I'm showering, it plays over and over again in my head.  It bothers me a little bit that I can't make it stop; I'm not sure if it makes me feel like I'm greedy, or too narrowly-focused, or what it might say about me psychologically.  Someday, I'm sure, I'll achieve that goal, and maybe that voice will be quiet.  Or maybe it will pick up a different mantra.  Or maybe, it will simply increase the quota.  I don't know.  All I know is that it drives me, everyday, to do my job to the best of my ability (or seek out a new job that I can do to the best of my ability if I don't see my job going anywhere), so that I may one day be the kind of person to make $100,000 a year. 

I can't think of any other real mantras that I've used, but now that I am more aware of their power, I may create new ones or realize more that I've forgotten here.  I am also curious to know what mantras other people have used to help them through something.

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